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259 branches to shut by next year

RBS closures ‘will make running a business difficult’

Branches disappearing: union says communities are affected (pic: Terry Murden)


Small firms leaders today claimed that Royal Bank of Scotland’s latest branch closure programme would make it more difficult to run a business in some parts of the country.

As business leaders and politicians lined up with trade unionists to condemn the bank’s plans, one lobby group urged the bank to consider the poor internet connections in rural areas which made it difficult to bank online.

RBS today revealed plans to close a quarter of its branches by June next year, affecting the jobs of 1,000 staff.

RBS will shut 259 further branches between May and June 2018, including 62 in Scotland. It will leave just 743 operational branches. In Scotland, 165 staff are impacted by the plan and 680 across the UK.

It follows an announcement from Lloyds Banking Group on Wednesday that it would close 49 branches across the UK, including 13 Bank of Scotland branches. There are also warnings that some cash dispensing machines will be withdrawn, making it more difficult to access cash.

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convener, said: “This is bitterly disappointing news – particularly for those bank workers whose jobs are under threat – but also for the Scottish towns, cities and villages affected. Ultimately, these changes will make it more difficult to run a business in much of Scotland – including many deprived communities and tourism hotspots.

“While many small businesses use online banking, that doesn’t mean they don’t handle cash, and therefore need to visit a branch. Further, many of the branches under threat are in parts of the country with particularly poor mobile and broadband coverage – a fact to which RBS seems to be paying scant regard.

 


“It is time for the big banks to come clean regarding their long-term plans. If they’re going to wind down their branch network, they need to develop proper alternatives to service all of their customers’ needs. So far promises made regarding smart ATMs and mobile banking have not been delivered.”

Unite described the announcement from RBS as “institutional financial vandalism” and “catastrophic” for employees and the communities affected and has called on the Scottish government to intervene.

“This move by a taxpayer backed institution is simply unacceptable,” it said in a statement.

Unite Scotland’s Regional Officer, Lyn Turner, said: “RBS’s 2016 annual report states that they want ‘to transform the bank into the number one for customer service, trust and advocacy.’ What we have in 2017 is a plan which amounts to institutional financial vandalism on a scale which has never been seen in this country ever before. Customer service? Trust? Don’t make me laugh.”

Lyn Turner

Lyn Turner: “Customer service? Don’t make me laugh.” (pic: Terry Murden)


Unite says RBS has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on an advertising campaign to convince the Scottish people that it is not the Royal Bank of Scotland but the Royal Bank for Scotland.

Mr Turner added: “This is not the Royal Bank for Scotland. It’s the Royal Bank for its top directors and executives filling their boots while they devastate local communities with bank closures and destroy 100s of quality jobs.”

Unite said RBS is claiming that these closures cannot be avoided and that the “catastrophic abandonment” of service provision they entail will be bridged by mobile van services, new digital services and banking on offer at local Post Offices.

It accuses the bank of turning its back on rural communities across Scotland who rely on a bank branch to support their business or for personal use. 

At a media briefing today, Mr Turner said RBS would be left with just 85 branches in Scotland and that the Borders would have just on RBS branch – in Galashiels – while West Lothian will have only two – in Bathgate and Livingston.

He said Post Offices were not the answer as some smaller offices would not take large amounts of cash.

“Where is the local butcher supposed to put his takings for the week? Under the mattress?” he said.

The union points to research showing that where the last bank in town closes local businesses suffer as customers spend their money where they travel to access a bank. 




It said research carried out by Accenture earlier this year had shown an increase in customers using branches from 47% in 2010 to 53%.

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford called on the bank to reverse its decision and said it was in danger of ‘ turning its back ‘ on rural Scotland.

RBS, which is 72%-owned by the taxpayer, said it would try to ensure compulsory redundancies were “kept to an absolute minimum”.

But Mr Blackford MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said: “RBS must think again. This devastates their network in many rural areas and it is simply not acceptable. The list hits small towns and remote locations – including the area I represent – particularly badly.

“These decisions must be raised with the UK government  at the earliest opportunity in their role as a  major shareholder. In addition – I am seeking an urgent  meeting with  RBS chief executive, Ross McEwan.

“RBS has a duty to its customers, they were bailed out by the taxpayer so they really cannot repay our communities by withdrawing from them.

“The Bank is turning its back on rural Scotland, and this will impact personal customers and businesses ,as well as being a real worry for many staff. This has to be stopped.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “I am very disappointed to hear of the plans by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close so many of their branches across Scotland. 

“This is a serious issue for the communities they serve. While usage of branches may have dropped, they are still a lifeline for many people, especially in rural areas.

“I’ll be seeking a meeting with the senior leadership of RBS to discuss these closures as a matter of urgency.”

Unite Scotland’s Deputy Regional Secretary Mary Alexander said: “RBS has forgotten about the many people in food bank Scotland who cannot afford to take the bus to their nearest banking facility or parents with small children who do not have access to a car. Nor do they care much about the elderly or those in poor health who cannot travel any distance to their nearest branch.

“The Scottish Government cannot stand by and watch this catastrophe develop. Every bit of financial muscle that the Government has must be deployed to force RBS to change their mind. There must urgent talks with RBS to make it clear their proposals are totally unacceptable in modern Scotland.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird said: “These closures by RBS, on the back of cuts announced earlier this week by Bank of Scotland, will create even more banking deserts.

“Wishing away the need for a branch network while talking up emerging technology such as video banking does nothing for those communities – many of them in places already left behind by mobile and broadband rollout.

“Quite apart from the inconvenience caused to personal banking customers, thousands of small businesses on high streets across Scotland still handle cash and still need somewhere to bank it at the end of the day.

“Delegating day-to-day transactions to Post Offices does not discharge banks from their customer or wider social responsibilities. I will be writing to RBS and Bank of Scotland seeking urgent meetings to discuss the implications of these decisions and any alternatives which might be explored.”

List of Scottish closures:

Royal Bank of Scotland Branch

Closure Date in 2018

1 Linlithgow

27/06

2 Alloa

19/06

3 Bannockburn

15/05

4 Bridge of Allan

11/06

5 Dunblane

20/05

6 Kinross

25/06

7 Bonnyrigg

24/05

8 Dunbar

30/05

9 Duns

05/06

10 Eyemouth

11/06

11 Hawick

14/06

12 Jedburgh

18/06

13 Melrose

21/06

14 North Berwick

25/06

15 Penicuik

28/06

16 Selkirk

21/05

17 Aberdeen Bridge of Don

17/05

18 Banff

23/05

19 Dyce

31/05

20 Ellon

07/06

21 Huntly

14/06

22 Nairn

21/06

23 Turriff

26/06

24 Comrie

13/06

25 Dundee Stobswell

20/06

26 Montrose

06/06

27 Perth South Street

27/06

28 Aviemore

31/05

29 Beauly

06/06

30 Grantown on Spey

11/06

31 Inverness Queensgate – Business Branch

27/06

32 Tain

20/06

33 Tongue

14/06

34 Wick

17/05

35 Aberfeldy

07/06

36 Castlebay

14/06

37 Inveraray

21/06

38 Kyle

28/06

39 Mallaig

17/05

40 Pitlochry

31/05

41 Annan

25/06

42 Gretna

07/06

43 Langholm

30/05

44 Lockerbie

21/06

45 Glasgow Business Centre

20/06

46 Stepps

20/06

 

 

47 Airdrie

24/05

48 Bellshill

11/06

49 Biggar

31/05

50 Carnwath

25/06

51 Douglas Lanarkshire

21/05

52 Larkhall

04/06

53 Lesmahagow

19/06

54 Strathaven

07/06

55 Tannochside

14/06

56 Campbeltown

29/05

57 Kilbirnie

05/06

58 Kilwinning

11/06

59 Renfrew

14/06

60 Rothesay

26/06

61 Saltcoats

20/06

62 Hamilton Cadzow Street

28/06

  



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